Immortality In The Epic Of Gilgamesh

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The Epic of Gilgamesh

The epic story of Gilgamesh in its long, poetic form speaks of another, fantastical world. Yet within the narrative of gods, half-gods, and humanization of creatures, many familiar themes arise that continue to be relevant and explored in modern literature. Ideas on friendship, the power of the gods and love are among those raised in the story with one of the main themes being the desire and search for immortality. As the story unfolds, Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, learns of death leading him on a quest for eternal life only to discover and finally accept the inevitability of humans dying. Recognizing that he will one day die allows Gilgamesh to finally appreciate the city he has built and the people within it.

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This is the one human being who has received the gift of immortality from the gods. While Gilgamesh’s expedition with Enkidu to the Cedar Forest was in spite of the strong threat of death, his second journey to Utnapishtim is to find a way to escape it. On his way, Gilgamesh stops for a rest and to the ale-wife, Siduri, he begs “Let me not see the death which I ever dread”. Ignoring her advice to live for the day and enjoy life’s pleasures, Gilgamesh asks how to reach Utnapishtim. Once he arrives, Utnapishtim tells Gilgamesh that nothing is forever. That houses are not made to stand forever and rivers not always to rise and that man is the same. The gods have decreed that man be mortal, although the day of his death they do not tell. He explains to Gilgamesh that the quest for immortality is pointless and unavoidable by the very nature of being human. Not satisfied, Gilgamesh then asks Utnapishtim who is himself a man how he managed to achieve immortality. Utnapishtim tells his story of a famous flood brought down by the gods in which he and his wife were spared. Utnapishtim then tells Gilgamesh that he must endure a test to prove to the gods that he is worthy of being given eternal life. He must remain awake for six days and seven nights but Gilgamesh ends up falling asleep. Utnapishtim is to about to…show more content…
The search for eternal life in the epic of Gilgamesh can be compared to all humans even today, where we attempt to ensure that we live for as long as possible. Many humans had searched and failed to find “the fountain of youth”, an imaginary promise of living forever, much like the plant Gilgamesh found in the sea. Yet when we inevitably die, what is left of us are the memories, good and bad, that we created while alive. Building is better than destroying in passing forward a memory that will live forever and this is what Gilgamesh also learned. The epic adventures of Gilgamesh who feared death has, on the contrary, immortalized him in history and through
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